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Prison Rape and the Government

If weak standards would be justified by preventing 3 percent of abuse, strong ones would be resoundingly vindicated by what is in fact possible. The department could do much more than it is now proposing while remaining fiscally responsible. Many of its proposals can be improved at minimal cost. Other necessary measures will carry a significant price, but we do not believe they will be nearly as expensive as the department has estimated. Even if they were, however, they would be warranted by the immense good they will do.

The Justice Department still has work to do on the standards, but President Obama should urge it to move more swiftly. In just the time it has taken to read this article, several more people like Jan Lastocy have been raped behind bars, and more than half of them could have been saved if the standards were in place. The department now estimates that it will finish its process by the end of 2011, a year and a half after its statutory deadline passed. But well over 100,000 inmates have already been sexually abused while in the government’s care since Holder missed his deadline, and if it takes him until the end of the year to issue standards, there will be nearly 200,000 more.

—February 23, 2011

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